LAS VEGAS — A new tagline and logo for Food Marketing Institute accompanied a message to its members to take a new look at shoppers whose habits changed during the economic downturn, Leslie Sarasin , president and chief executive officer of FMI, said during the Speaks presentation at FMI 2010 last week.
The new tagline, “Feeding Families and Enriching Lives,” encapsulates the best of what FMI's members contribute to society, Sarasin said in a presentation mixing sobering facts gleaned from the organization's annual Consumer Trends Survey with a message of opportunity contained in those figures.
“This concept of feeding families and enriching lives is so important in your daily work,” Sarasin said. “During my 18 months at the helm of FMI, I've had the opportunity to visit many of you in your stores and meet many of your associates.
“During my travels, I've seen that those stores that work best with the communities are the very stores that are embedded in the everyday lives of their shoppers.”
Sarasin cited her own shopping experiences as an example, noting that she often is rushing home to her family without an idea of what to serve for dinner.
“But thanks to your ingenuity, I can rush into a kiosk at the front of my local store and a professional chef who works in the store will have created an easy, healthy recipe for me to follow — and all the ingredients are right there for me to grab and go. And if I'm really rushed you've even made a meal for me already and all I have to do is heat it when I get home.”
The Consumer Trends Survey offered a “report card and a roadmap” for industry companies, Sarasin said. Shoppers were in general exhibiting cautious spending behavior, increasing their pursuit of coupons and sales, and eating at home more often. The total dollars they spend for groceries in all retail formats declined for the third consecutive year, FMI statistics show.
The results point to and support FMI's positioning around the customer, who Sarasin said is “spending less, eating less and saving more.”
“It's not that you have a different audience,” Sarasin said of changing consumer behavior. “It's that your audience is acting differently. The psychology of the shopper has changed.”
Several points of data reflect the new times in which supermarkets are operating. Customers reported increased confidence in the safety of food bought in supermarkets, up to 85% from 65% in 2006.
Cooking meals at home is on the increase, while eating away from home continues to decline, FMI figures showed. Especially encouraging is the growth in home cooking among Generation Y consumers, “a generation that will dwarf the Baby Boomers in size,” Sarasin noted.
“This group is beginning to raise families and will likely spend more food dollars than any other generation in our history,” she said. “This trend signals a major opportunity for the industry.”
Consumers are also reporting that health and wellness messages are more available — up by 47% since 2007. This is important because consumers show a continued desire to eat healthy, with 62% of shoppers believing their diets could be healthier.
These opportunities come against a backdrop of a fundamentally changed consumer. “It's as though the recession created a savvier shopper, one that will require all our leadership skills to serve,” Sarasin said. “I doubt our industry can expect to get by with what has worked in the past — we must continue to be willing to do things differently.”
FMI research revealed that customers are stretching dollars in multiple ways: 77% of them use shopping lists all the time or frequently, and 77% said they only buy what they need. Couponing has returned, with 61% saying they use coupons from print sources and 32% taking advantage of Internet offers — up 11% since 2009.
Around 23% of shoppers are looking for specials on the Internet before they shop at the store and 54% of shoppers are comparing prices at different stores, according to FMI.
Customers are also economizing and trying to live within their means. Low prices remain the most important feature for 75% of respondents in deciding where to shop, followed by fresh foods and sales.
Only 4% of shoppers say they are preparing fewer meals at home, with 96% saying they are dining in more at home, including lunches: More than 25% of all shoppers and 30% of younger consumers make their lunch at home and bring it to work.
“Changes in consumer attitudes and demands will require a nimble and quick industry,” Sarasin added. “The most successful companies will determine — and provide — what customers need long before customers have even figured out they wanted it.”